24 November, 2010

We all tell stories all the time

A friend's daughter and I were walking through the marketplace in her town the other day. It was early winter dusk. The Christmas Market stands were standing empty around the periphery in anticipation of next week's opening. My young companion told me how she and her family often come to the Christmas Market in the evenings after dinner. Then she told a story in short sentences with great depth,

“The adults stand crowded together while the children run around. There is music and a bubble-making fountain. The children chase after the bubbles. Oh, I love the feel and taste of the hot Christmas Punch* in my mouth and the coldness on my cheeks.”

Do not those words conjure up so many wonderful images?

* The children get a spiced Christmas Punch with no alcohol, but those adults crowding around talking are undoubtedly partaking in the more stronger sort.

20 November, 2010

New branch in the road

As most of you know, I've been trying to find a new work contract or job position since January. It has not been an easy task and, to be perfectly honest, I've failed miserably. In the nearly 40 years that I've worked, starting as a 15-year-old working weekends in a sailing shop, up until now, I've never really had a problem finding qualified work. There were even times that I had a choice of jobs.Mostly,  each job came with new and interesting responsibilities.

Still, there have also been times when economic restrictions has made it necessary to look for the same job, but with another company. What I call changing desks, or geography, but not jobs. Times when company hiring philosophies were so conservative that HR officers were taking no risks when filling free positions and thus, giving no one the opportunity to come into the positions with enthusiasm, naivity, and a willingness to try out new ideas.

These last months have been particularly discouraging because those job opportunities that I have applied to, where I covered the job profile 150%, have come and gone without even being invited to an interview. This is the first time that this has happened to me in my life. It is hard not to take this personally. Well meant platitudes from friends and family do not sooth the hurt of feeling unwanted and unnecessary. It is surprising how much of my indenity is based on my ability to work and receive a salary.

After much contemplation, I've decided to become self-employed (training and project management). The German employment agency offers a substantial training program and financial package towards acheiving this goal. So, it could be that this blog will have various posts about this new branch on my journey. I'm feeling a bit uncomfortable about doing this, having always wanted to keep a clear distinction between my "real" self and this blog. Yet, honestly, I do know most of you guys who read my posts, so I am not so sure why I am reticent.

What are your feelings about this topic? Do you have inner guidelines in your blogs? Does it interest you at all to know what other bloggers do for a living? Should I keep to the old format?

17 November, 2010

Thinking Out of the Box

In the last week I stood in to queues and was faced with situations that made me blink and wake up to the fact that there are some stores and food producers out there trying to walk the talk when it comes to sensible marketing.

The first was in a store that would give customers quite a few bonus points on their store card, if they could fit all the produce they bought in their own backpack or basket. The fact is, most Germans do bring along their own linen bags or baskets or whatever. Yet, sometimes customers are caught going shopping without their bags and so they usually have to pay a minimal fee for plastic bags. This is like a small demerit system. This shop I went to had a better policy. They said, "Why don't we praise those customers who do bring bags and don't consume want more plastic". Not only did I try extra hard to put all my food items in my already full backpack, I'll definitely go back because they want to praise me diligence instead of punish my oversight.

Secondly, there is a organic yogurt company that doesn't offer it's customers 110 different flavoured yogurts the whole year round. Instead, they offer about 10 different flavours depending on the season. In the late summer there are quite a few berry flavours. In early winter, there are spicy, chocolatety, Advent-y flavours. Each season brings new flavours. Some of their flavours reoccur each season. Others come and go. Where does it say that a company has to produce a huge amount of flavours all the time?

11 November, 2010

Stormy Nights


Story nights make for quiet occupations. 

08 November, 2010

Turning Garbage back into Oil

Don't you wish someone would come up with a machine that is able to convert plastic garbage back into oil and reduce carbon emissions at the same time?


Mr. Akinori Ito believes he has done just that (English subtitles).

07 November, 2010

Sounds of Failure

Yesterday, I mentioned listening many hours to my backlist of podcasts and watching videos and how inspiring I find all of their content. One of those podcasts is Radiolab and one of the series of videos is PopTech 2010. Today's post combines them both with this presentation by Jad Abumrad. 

In the video blurb they write that "He uses sound to explore ideas and share stories", but I think this video has more to do with the letting us listen to and delight in the sounds of failure.

Do enjoy!

06 November, 2010

Letting Music Inspire

The last weeks have been filled with quiet hours for working on my collages and listening to the many podcasts I subscribe to, which were lying unheard on my iTunes. It also has been a time of getting my google reader list read and watching videos. These quiet occupations inspire my collage making. It is as if learning and creating are correlating processes.

The inspiration for today's collage came from this video from the Guardian titled, “Robert Schumann: Love, music and madness”. It's focus is described as,

“Two hundred years after Schumann was born, and following on from a festival at Kings Place in London, actors Juliet Stevenson and Sebastian Koch, cellist Natalie Clein and pianists Lucy Parham and Alan Rusbridger discuss the composer's music, his passionate relationships with his wife Clara and fellow composer Brahms, and his painful descent into mental illness.”

It is typical of the high quality media this newspaper daily produces, which is why I so adore the paper. I don’t know of any other newspaper that manages to do this so well. If you know of one, please tell me.

05 November, 2010

Subtle Message

Our son is returning home again for the weekend. He's off studying computer science at a university "down south", i.e., in southern Germany. Once friends heard the news, they started calling to ask whether he could come over to help them with the technical problems that have cropped up since he left six weeks ago.

I mentioned this fact to him yesterday when we talked briefly. This morning there was this image in his google buzz links. Is he sending me a subtle message?

03 November, 2010

Glass half full

Ain't that so true?

02 November, 2010

Small Gestures of Appreciation


"Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary."
Margaret Cousins

My grandmother was a kind and gentle person, who spent her life in service to her family and her God. Even though she gave much and was given little in return, I believe she was the person who taught me most about appreciation. She had a gift of observing nature (the passing of the seasons, the changes in weather, the warmth of sun rays) and mentioning each mundane occurrence or force of nature as being something of wonder. As the years pass, I find that wonder of hers for the coming of the day and quiet pleasures of a long autumn evening.